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    Elijah and the poetry of Pesach

    Filling Elijah’s cup, and opening the door for the prophet, are among the most colourful and poetic of our observances on Seder night. For Elijah the prophet is the unseen guest at every Seder.

    A person’s character is known by the company they keep.

    Who goes with a Jew? Jews can defy space and time. They can find friends in their own era; they can also choose the company of their ancestors.

    They live alongside the patriarchs; Moses and Aaron walk with them, David and Solomon. A Jew lives with them; they live in him. But our dearest companion of all is Elijah, deathless prophet, courageous hero, moved by the spirit of the Lord.

    We meet Elijah in infancy. Elijah has a special chair at a b’rit as the angel who accompanies the child through life. Elijah is “the messenger of the covenant”, for he once complained, “Israel have forsaken Your covenant”.

    We long daily to see Elijah. We pray in the grace after meals, “May God send us Elijah the prophet to give us good tidings, salvation and consolation”.

    Elijah will not come on the eve of a Shabbat or festival, for are not all Israel occupied with preparations for the day? But we await him at the end of Shabbat, when we sing Eliyahu HaNavi and smile to think he sits under the tree of life and records the names of those who keep the Sabbath.

    We think of Elijah on Shabbat HaGadol, when the Haftarah says God will send the prophet before “the great and awesome day of the Lord”.

    We eagerly anticipate his arrival on Seder night. We open the door and pour him a glass of wine.

    Elijah will come to announce Mashi’ach; the exodus from Egypt was in Nisan, and Nisan will see the messianic redemption.

    Elijah as teacher, peace maker, champion of God, guardian angel of Israel, precursor of Mashi’ach – the thought goes with us along the path of life.

    Elijah shows a Jew how to think; said he, two men in a market place were sure to go to heaven – two jesters. Their merit? That they made others happy.

    He it is who will remove the question marks of which the Talmud says, teyku – short for “Elijah the Tishbite will solve questions and problems”.

    He is the peace maker who “will turn the hearts of fathers to children and children to fathers”.

    He is the champion of God, who will not bow to Ahab or follow idols.

    He is the guardian angel who defends Israel, especially on Pesach, when Jews sat in fear of the mobs.

    He is the precursor who will come three days before Mashi’ach. He will sound the trumpet and announce the coming of peace. He will arrange the seating in the Garden of Eden.

    Elijah is our philosopher and friend, companion, champion and defender.

    Yes, cynic, scoff if you dare. Tell me you have no time for folklore or fancy. Will you, then, rob your heart of poetry, your mind of inspiration, your soul of wonder?

    Did not Bialik say: “As long as the soul animates man, longs for light and thirsts for beauty, man needs the fountain of poetry”?

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